Conversations at the Crossroads.

Quit Procrastinating!

“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

How many times in your life have you heard this line? Too many times to count, I imagine. Whether someone else utters the phrase or the words simply echo inside your head, the intention is always to urge action. It’s just another way of saying:

“Get it done already!”

Perhaps such words and thoughts have motivated you on occasion. Sometimes this sort of reminder is all it takes to provoke one step forward, and then another, to accomplish what waits to be accomplished.

But what happens when motivating words and thoughts aren’t enough to get you going? What does it mean when a task lurks endlessly on your To-Do list, no matter how high a priority you’ve deemed it or how impactful the outcome might be?

Scenarios like this often lead to the declaration “I’m a procrastinator!” And then, interestingly, after that label of Procrastinator has been properly assigned, it’s likely that the task continues to reside on the To-Do list. It may reside more comfortably on the list, in fact, because now it belongs there. After all, the very best of us—we, the Master Procrastinators—always have something on our To-Do lists as evidence of our label. And that label provides us with an excuse for almost anything that’s not getting done.

“I procrastinate; it’s what I do.”  We’ve all said it at some point.

Yet, an opportunity is lost when we accept that convenient label and it becomes part of our identity. We lose an opportunity to ask ourselves important questions that might raise our self-awareness. For example:

  • In a day or a week when I accomplish so many other things, why is THIS task the one I keep putting off?
  • What are the emotions that I associate with the “starting,” the “doing” or the “finishing” of this task? How do these anticipated feelings and reactions inspire me or hold me back?
  • What beliefs or expectations do I have regarding my ability to accomplish this task or to achieve my desired results? How do these beliefs and expectations inspire me or hold me back?

In short, by labeling ourselves procrastinators, we miss out on the insights that come with asking: What’s this stalling really about anyway? Those insights, upon further investigation, might actually show us a way forward. We have fear of failure. We are afraid of success. Sometimes we’re just uncomfortable with uncertainty. These are thereal blocks! And with the knowledge of what’s really in our way, we have more clearly defined obstacles to face and overcome. We can apply our creativity and resourcefulness directly rather than in the vague direction of our “procrastination problem.”

This self-questioning approach works, and the insights are inevitable. This week, think about those tasks that have been overstaying their welcome on your To-Do list, and dive a little deeper. What happens next may surprise you.

With support and encouragement for your journey,

Founder, The Crossroads Coach

Published December 5, 2012